After a 64-year absence, Marine Verne Nelson returned to Korea and on July 11 received a warm welcome from fellow Marine, Major General Robert F. Hedelund, commander of the Marine Forces in Korea (MARFORK). Nelson returned to visit his grandson, who has been living in Korea, as well as to see firsthand what has been accomplished with the freedom he valiantly fought for. The last time he was on the peninsula, he was wounded in battle on September 5, 1952.
After reaching out to USO Korea Area Director Greg Phillips, the USO and MARFORK coordinated to ensure that the Purple Heart recipient was given the proper welcome due to this dignitary.
Nelson was greeted upon arrival July 6th at Incheon Airport by a contingent of Marines. The following day two Marines took Nelson and his family on a tour of the War Memorial of Korea, and the next day those Marines accompanied the party on a trip to the Panmunjom and the Joint Security Area. That evening long-term Korea resident and USO Director Phillips took over, taking them out to dine on Korean cuisine. “Thank you for being the hero who made this possible,” Phillips praised. “Thanks to your sacrifice I have been able to come to this great country and marry my wonderful Korean wife.”
The trip culminated in today’s meeting with Major General Hedelund, and the fellow marines immediately were joking together and sharing war stories. When Nelson humbly described how he became Sergeant, even these hardened Marines were visibly moved. “I didn’t become Sergeant by taking a test or because I was smarter than anyone. I became Sergeant because the guy ahead of me...” and his voice broke as the tears came and the sentence went unfinished.
Maj. Gen. Hedelund later shared his appreciation with his Marine predecessor. “It’s thanks to you and what you did here that this country has become the successful democracy that it is. You are one of the reasons today’s marines can take great pride in their history and their heritage.”